Sat, Aug 17, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, Solomon Islands sign visa waiver agreement

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu, right, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, center, and Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremiah Manele hold hands yesterday at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.

Photo: CNA

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and signed a bilateral visa waiver agreement with the Pacific ally, defying rumors about souring ties.

The two met at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, which took place from Tuesday to yesterday. Wu led a delegation to the forum from Thursday to today.

Speculation that Solomon Islands might switch recognition to China was renewed after the Pacific state’s elections in April, which saw the return of Sogavare to power after being voted out in 2017.

Sogavare told reporters at the time that his government would re-evaluate the nation’s foreign relations.

Over the past few months, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reiterated that the two nations continue to enjoy stable ties.

Two weeks ago, a ministry official said that the Solomon Islands government was mulling whether to send a task force to visit Taiwan after it sent a task force to visit Beijing’s allies in the Pacific.

Sogavare yesterday thanked Taiwan for offering vital aid to his nation over the past few years, while sharing his government’s new development vision, the ministry said.

Highlighting their inadequate traffic infrastructure, Sogavare expressed hope that Taiwan and other development partners would offer pertinent assistance based on the needs of Solomon Islanders, it said.

Solomon Islands is one of Taiwan’s oldest Pacific ally, and Taiwan will — within the scope of its capacity — seek concrete collaboration plans with other like-minded countries to jointly assist in its development, Wu said.

Wu also signed a bilateral visa waiver agreement with Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremiah Manele.

The agreement would allow people from both countries to stay in each other’s country for 90 days without a visa, the ministry said, adding that it would take effect after administrative procedures are completed.

The meeting proved fruitful and significant in consolidating Taiwan-Solomon Islands ties, it said.

Taiwan has signed similar agreements with Nauru, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Palau, it added.

In his speech at the forum’s closing ceremony, Wu said that Taiwan last month also renewed a collaborative agreement with PIF Secretariat, promising to continue subsidizing its scholarship program, regional development plans and projects that send Pacific officials to intern at regional organizations.

Taiwan also plans to set up Taiwan Digital Opportunity Center missions in ally countries that are interested in such developments to boost their digital infrastructure, the ministry added.

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